The room 
outdoorsPublished on May 14, 2017

  • The colour red was the inspiration for this garden
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Inspiration came from an ornate stained-glass window.
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Glebe garden
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

For many, the idea of a backyard conjures up a place where on warm summer evenings, families and friends gather around the barbecue, tend to colourful gardens or take a swim in the pool. But, for Ottawa-based landscape architect John Szczepaniak, the idea of the backyard transcends tradition and provides an opportunity to create an original experience for each of his clients.

Szczepaniak, a member of the Association of Landscape Architects and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, is fiercely passionate about enhancing his clients lifestyle with outdoor room designs that harmonize with the existing architecture of the home.”We are experiencing a newer style of living, where homeowners are paying more attention to lighting and interesting plants, as well as looking for multi-functional spaces,” says John.


When suburban homeowners, both engineers, were planning a significant addition to their home, they enlisted the services of Szczepaniak early in the process. This gave John the opportunity to work closely with the contractor, Jim Bell Architectural Design & Build, to create an integrated solution for house and garden that included the salvaging of a Gingko tree and the repurposing of original interlock.

“Along with a major architectural addition to this home, the garden was completely updated to include sleek outdoor living spaces that combined seamlessly with the interior,” explains John.
During the planning process, John noted that his clients were partial to the colour red and, as patrons of the arts, had an affinity for both sculpture and fine art. This inspired him to add colour to the outdoor space, using red and black detailing, pebbles and granite.

A northern Ontario native, John has a natural appreciation for rugged, organic features, especially rock. For this project, he commissioned an interpretation of the homeowners and their three sons by Ottawa-area balanced rock artist, John Ceprano, as the focal point in this extraordinary space.


Another one of his projects, a century home located in the heart of the Glebe, features a beautifully-designed garden that provides a serene space within the city. Building on the philosophy that a garden is a collection of experiences, the inspiration for his self-described “urban pocket garden” came from an unusual place – a small, ornate stained-glass window.

“When the homeowners approached me to help design their outdoor space, they brought with them a striking piece of glass that was original to the home. It immediately captured my imagination and I incorporated the feel and design of it throughout the garden and fence design.”

John then got to work on the given task of creating a garden without traditional grass, and to maximize living possibilities and greenery in a tight space, as the homeowners had recently built an addition that took up a sizable piece of the yard.

“In small spaces, the beauty is in the details,” he says. “For this space, it was of utmost importance that what we were designing was done with respect and admiration to the original house.”

The close collaboration between John, the homeowners and a team of professionals yielded a creative, compact space that is usable for several seasons. Light filters in through the custom fence design to create a sense of magic as the brilliance of the stained glass interacts with plants and hard landscape materials. The unique approach to the driveway design gives visitors a sense of making a journey from the front yard to the back.

Rochelle James

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